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1670 virginia tobacco slaves

Slaves processing tobacco during the 17th century

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Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors) British North America


17th18th century

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Tobacco was used as commodity money in parts of British North America from the 17th to the 18th century due to the scarcity of specie.


In 1619, the General Assembly of the Colony of Virginia rated tobacco of high quality as being equal to three shillings. During 1642, it was officially declared legal tender in the colony. The unsteadiness of tobacco prices eventually led Virginia to issue "tobacco notes" in 1727. In the Province of Maryland, nearly all transactions were made using tobacco. Up until the American Revolution, the Province of North Carolina also used tobacco as currency. Eventually, the idea of using tobacco as currency died during the later 18th century, mainly because of its lack of portability and variability in value.